Renowned bed bug expert, Dr. Richard Cooper, recently reported groundbreaking findings in the Journal of Economic Entomology, that suggest many low-level bed bug infestations do not require the use of pesticides, can be controlled and potentially eliminated solely with the use of interception devices.

This is the first study to show that interception devices (traps used to capture bed bugs), which to date have been used primarily to detect the presence of bed bugs, can actually control bed bug infestations if they are detected in their early stages.

“What I found most impressive about Rick’s research is how they could eliminate so many of the bed bug populations with just the use of interceptors,” said Dr. Dini Miller, Professor of Urban Pest Management, Department of Entomology at Virginia Tech.

Cooper’s research, conducted at Rutgers University as part of his doctoral thesis titled, “Behavioral ecology and control of bed bugs, Cimex lectularius L., in multifamily housing communities” showed that with the use of pitfall interceptors, within low-level infestations (approximately 10 or fewer live bugs based on trap catch), bed bug populations could be reduced, and even eliminated, without insecticide applications.

Through preliminary research, Cooper found that with the use of interceptors, the low-level bed bug populations that he was monitoring were decreasing, rather than increasing, as would have been expected based upon traditional growth models. After discovering this unexpected result, Cooper conducted a second study determine if interceptors were contributing to the elimination of infestations in the first study.

His research illustrated that with a mass-trapping tactic, interceptors contributed to the decline of the populations in apartments with low-level infestations over the course of the 16-week study. The results of the study suggest that placing interceptors throughout the dwelling removes bed bugs faster than they are able to reproduce, thus preventing the escalation of bed bug populations in most of the apartments and eliminating them in over half of the apartments without any other treatments.

Cooper is quick to point out that he is not suggesting interception devices should be used exclusively to control bed bugs. However, he notes, “It is clearly evident the devices have a significant impact on reducing population growth, which in many cases results in the elimination of infestations.”

“There’s been work done in the past that shows how unstable low-level infestations are,” Jeff White, Director of Innovation and Technical Content of BedBug Central, said. “But Rick’s data shows just how one specific tool can help address low-level infestations.”

Even though interceptors, such as the ClimbUp®, BlackOut® and SenSci Volcano™, are viewed as effective monitoring tools, Cooper believes the value of interceptors as a control technique is still underestimated.

“They are certainly the most effective detection tool on the market, but the industry just hasn’t embraced them yet. Only about 50 percent of the industry uses them and they need to recognize just how effective and powerful they are as a control tool,” Cooper said. “They’re just as important as chemicals, if not more important. By recognizing the role that interceptor traps play in the control of bed bugs, we can effectively reduce the amount of pesticides applied for the control of bed bugs.”

White also agrees with Cooper that the industry needs to understand the importance of these devices, especially within multi-family housing units.

“Monitoring bed bug populations is a critical tactic in the process of managing infestations,” he said, “however monitoring is not common and more often than not, infestations go unreported. Monitoring programs let housing management companies know what bed bug populations aren’t being reported, which are often the infestations that grow to mind-blowing levels and affect entire communities.”

Miller concurs with White that using interceptors as a monitoring device within senior housing units are an integral part in keeping bed bug populations at bay.

“We need to figure this out now,” she said. “Over 50 percent of infestations aren’t being reported and my generation needs to figure this out now, or in 25 years we will be living it.”

Dr. Philip Koehler, professor of entomology at the University of Florida, explained that Cooper’s findings will offer support for those living in multi-family housing units that are vulnerable to bed bugs.

“This is going bring help to a lot of people dealing with bedbugs,” he said. “In low-level infestations, interceptors can provide a great deal of relief for residents and they offer a reasonably priced way to do so.”

Phil Cooper, CEO at BedBug Central, explained that although the industry may be less receptive to the idea of interceptors used as a control tool, he hopes that they will understand just how vital they are for monitoring and detecting infestations within surrounding housing units.

“Interceptors are the best way to detect infestations within surrounding units to a known infestation,” Phil Cooper said. “They offer a less invasive way too look for bugs and are less expensive than canine inspections.”

White feels that although Cooper’s research is valid, the industry will need guidance on how to implement it effectively.

Miller was also unsure on how the industry would react to using interceptors as a control method.

“It’s a unique approach, but I don’t think it’s fast enough for the industry,” she said. “There’s a tendency for pest control companies to just spray for bed bugs because it’s faster. Most companies wouldn’t take the time to check the traps because time equals money.”

Even though Miller feels the economic benefit needs to be explored more, she does think interceptors are a viable option for senior and disabled living housing units.

Most bed bug experts, including White, agree that with proper implementation, interceptors as a defense technique could help change the way the pest industry deals with low-level infestations.

“Rick’s research is great,” he said, “and I think pest management companies can use it to make a difference at properties. The next step is taking it and getting it into a format that can easily be replicated and implemented at properties all over the world.”

For more information on bed bug monitors and how they can help manage bed bug infestations within buildings, check out Jeff White’s BedBug TV episode titled “Using Monitors to Help Control Bed Bug Infestations.

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